Santa Clara County fire backs push to reinstate nationwide net neutrality laws

Dustin Dorsey Image
Tuesday, April 9, 2024
Santa Clara Co. fire backs push to reinstate net neutrality laws
Santa Clara County Fire Department is backing the FCC's push to reinstate net neutrality laws nationwide.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- This month, the FCC votes to reinstate net neutrality across the country.

It was a controversial decision to remove the laws in 2017.

A year later, we saw the negative impacts when Santa Clara County firefighters lost cell service due to slowing speeds during one of the biggest fires in state history.

Former President Donald Trump pulled regulating power from the FCC when he was in office.

Now, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel wants to regain control.

MORE: Santa Clara County fire chief squares off with Verizon officials over alleged data throttling during Mendocino fire

"It's vitally important that every one of us can go where we want and do what we want online without our broadband provider making choices for us," Rosenworcel said.

We live in a world where internet connectivity is no longer just nice to have - it's essential.

How and when you are able to use it without providers throttling or slowing speeds and censoring content was once protected by net neutrality.

These equitable protections are about more than just browsing Disney+ without pause.

In 2018, we learned how lack of net neutrality protection was nearly deadly.

MORE: NorCal Congressional members ask FTC to investigate Verizon after throttling firefighter data speeds

Santa Clara County central firefighters saw their internet data-flow slow down dramatically.

This while the county's firefighters were battling what would become the state's biggest wildfire in the state's history at that time.

"Internet is vital for firefighters," Santa Clara Co. Fire Dept. Asst. Chief Brian Glass said. "We're collecting data, but we're also communicating with our constituents that are in the area about alert and warning about fire evacuations or shelter in place orders that need to be carried out in the fire zone."

Verizon made this impossible after they slowed down internet speeds when the limits of their unlimited plan were reached.

Stanford Law Professor Barbara Van Schewick says it doesn't matter if this was morally right or wrong, it's about making sure it never happens again.

MORE: Hundreds call into CPUC hearing as AT&T proposes end to CA landlines

"There was nobody that the firefighters could turn to to ensure that they get connection first and we can resolve the issue later. That's what we're trying to change here," Van Schewick said.

California put in safeguards since then, including their own net neutrality laws and the FirstNet first responder communication network.

But not every state has these protections.

So when firefighters go where the fire is, they want to be able to keep everyone safe.

"The goal to strive toward is to have the same connectivity here, everywhere that our resources, our men and women and people who go to those incidents, are at," SCCFD Chief Suwanna Kerdkaew said.

Just one of many reasons Chairwoman Rosenworcel hopes the FCC will vote to reinstate net neutrality laws on April 24.

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